Welcome to our spring 2024 Children’s Preview issue!
For our main feature, we spoke with publishers and agents about their outlook for the year ahead, and the current challenges and opportunities within the children’s market. We also asked authors to share their favorite questions they’ve ever been asked by children, and talked with author Kekla Magoon, who has not one but four books due out this year. All this, plus our comprehensive A–Z listings of children’s and YA titles being released between February 1 and July 31.
About Our Cover Artist
Jessica Love made quite a splash in 2018 with her debut picture book, Julián Is a Mermaid. The story, which follows a boy who joins the Coney Island Mermaid Parade in a costume of his own creation, earned a Stonewall Book Award for its joyful and affirming portrait of gender nonconformity and self-expression. The author-illustrator was also named a 2018 PW Flying Start. Love’s protagonist returned in a companion book, Julián at the Wedding. “The theme of being seen or finding a way to manifest your inner vision of yourself—transformation—is something I’ve continued to be interested in,” she says.
A graduate of UC Santa Cruz, where she studied printmaking and illustration, as well as a Juilliard-trained actor with Broadway credits, Love says she’s fascinated by “the power of art and performance and creativity to build yourself, your soul.” She currently lives with her family “in the middle of the woods, in a barn” in New York’s Hudson Valley. An old one-room schoolhouse serves as her workspace. “My husband is a woodworker, and he turned it into a studio for me. It’s rustic and very peaceful.”
Love points to books by Barbara Cooney, Maurice Sendak, and Kay Thompson (a fellow actor and author) as touchstones. “I think of storytelling in theatrical terms,” she says. “I see the series of key moments visually.” Though she’s taken a hiatus from performing to focus on picture book making, she enjoys reading aloud during school visits and to her young son. “That’s definitely an important outlet,” she adds.
An accomplished solo artist, Love has also illustrated works by authors Crescent Dragonwagon and Mượn Thị Văn. She says, “I gravitate towards writing that looks at kids right at their level, instead of from above. I like books with a peculiar voice and point of view. That’s the stuff that I get excited to illustrate.”
Love’s forthcoming collaboration with mother-daughter duo Emma and Susan Straub, Gaga Mistake Day (Rocky Pond, Apr.), “was so much fun to work on,” she says. “They really gave me license to go where I want with the character building.”
Also waiting in the wings is Little Passenger, a picture book written by Deirdre Sullivan for Walker Books US that Love calls “a pregnancy journey.” In addition, Julián Is a Mermaid, which she described as her “backstage baby” in her Flying Starts interview, is poised to take on a new life—as an animated feature film from Cartoon Saloon. —E.K.
2024 Children’s Publishing Outlook
Few in children’s publishing were sorry to see the end of 2023; the year was marked by a record level of book bans, softening sales, and concerns over the number of kids reading for fun. But reflecting on the year ahead, publishers, agents, and editors still find much to feel optimistic about.
Children’s Publishers on the Role of BookTok
“BookTok does magical things for books that no other social platform can,” says Jen Klonsky, president and publisher of Putnam Books for Young Readers. But publishers seem to agree that the magic can’t be artificially created.
Children’s Publishers on the Lingering Postpandemic Effects
Though much has resolved since the crisis, the period of transition continues as publishers face supply chain issues, shipping problems, and a shift to working from home.
Kekla Magoon on Her Genre-Crossing Output
Fifteen years into her career, and with four new books on the way in 2024, the children’s author isn’t showing any signs of slowing the pace.
Children’s Authors on Their Favorite Questions from Kids
We asked veteran children’s authors and illustrators to tell us favorite questions they’ve been asked by young readers, and how they answered them.